The Shattered Car Window Success Story

This is the story of how I covered one of my closest friends in a rain of glass shards.

Tiffany’s husband’s family had a little lake-house up in Michigan that they visited every year. It was a small lake sure but how big does a lake need to be? I guess big enough to contain a fish or two and with a long enough diameter to have some houses around it. This was one of those houses.

So Tiffany says “You should join us for a little vacation at the lake house” and my wife and I say “okay” and before you know it it’s ROAD TRIP TIME.

Tiffany flies into St Louis, and the plan is to drive up from our place in St Louis to the lake house in Michigan in our crappy 1998 VW Cabrio. It’s got a terribly-worn paint job and a clothtop convertible canopy and if it was a dog it would be a dog that smells real bad and doesn’t run fast and its claws make a weird slow clack noise as it ambles across the kitchen floor.

Well. We pack the car with our luggage and some snacks and some Cold Ones, and the trunk’s so darn full we even put a sixer of Cold Ones in the back window. We get on the open road in the sunny summer heat and we are ready as hell to get to Michigan and crack a Cold One and open a deck of cards to play Boufou next to a lake full of one fish.

After many hours on the road, we come to a traffic jam. Me in the driver’s seat, my wife passenger side, Tiffany in the back, we’re all just stuck in a four-mile-an-hour crawl on the highway, windows up, AC on. So my wife says, “Hey, it’s not that hot out, let’s put the top down!”

We do that, and as the sixteen-year-old motor in the back of the Cabrio is slowly pulling down the cloth top, “RRRRR,” we hear this loud POP. We don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s an old car, old cars make weird noises. Right? Sure. We enjoy the sunlight and listen to music with our sunglasses on, like Barbie The Doll would, if she were in a Duran Duran music video.

Eventually, traffic starts moving closer to highway speeds again, and we figure we better put the top back up. And the back motor goes RRRRR again and the top rises

And in the rear-view-mirror, I see what had made that POP:

The back window, when it gets pulled down into convertible mode, must nestle into the space below it

where we had put our sixer of Cold Ones.

And with the lowering of the window onto the Cold Ones, something had to give.

It was the window.

And so I see, looking in the rearview mirror, that as the car’s cloth top rises, the remnants of the window are revealed:

An expanse of shattered glass pebbles and fragments and spikes, all now raining down onto Tiffany’s head and shoulders

while Tiffany goes “AAAA” and extends her raised fingers in dismay, like two large tarantulas framing her panicked face.

So. We pull over at the next exit, find a gas station with a coin-operated vacuum, and use it to vacuum away all the little bits of glass. Tiffany stands near the car, brushing bits of glass off her and graciously saying “it’s okay. It’s not much glass that fell onto me. I guess I’m not entirely covered in glass fragments.” She’s a trooper.

The rest of the trip up to the lake house is much windier, as the open expanse in the back allows sun and gusts in, while from the front seat I am directing periodic apologies to Tiffany for the accidental bedazzling.

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The lake house vacation, once we arrived, was just as lovely as we hoped (the Ones were Cold, the fish swam around the lake), but some of my time was taken up arguing with local car shops over the phone.

“It’s just the glass,” I would say. “That’s all that needs replacing. The frame is fine, the rubber gasket that holds the glass in place is still there, and it’s dandy, it’s whole. We just need the right sized pane of glass to go in there.” But shop after shop would claim that I needed to find a special car upholsterer to work with the cloth. Repair costs in the hundreds of dollars were bandied about. (Hundreds! What am I, Mister Fancy Hundreds Of Dollars Haver?)

“All I need is the windowpane!” I explained to my wife, who nodded sympathetically. “Even if I just had… like… a piece of plexiglass, I could put that in the rubber gasket that used to hold the window!” She nodded some more.

And that’s the path that led to me making my own window out of a large piece of plexiglass, spending a couple hours sawing it to the exact shape I needed with a little 5-dollar coping-saw in a Home Depot parking lot. When I was finished, and the plexiglass window was tucked snugly into the gasket where the glass window had once been, you almost couldn’t tell it was a cheap repair. We ended up just using that as our window for another year or two (until I eventually found a replacement 98 VW Cabrio glass rear window in a big car-junkyard outside of St Louis).

But I was very proud of that windowmaking handiwork. Every time a new friend rode in the backseat, I would proudly point to that plexiglass window, just above their head. “I made that!” I would proclaim, “and it will never ever crack and fall on you and cut up your face and neck.”